INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Nearly 400 graduates from Morehouse College walked across the stage debt free. Commencement speaker, investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith pledged to create a grant estimated at $40 million that will cover expenses of the graduating class of 2019.
One of those men graduated from Pike High School and just returned to Indianapolis to start his career. Tyler Baker, 22, never expected to walk away from Morehouse debt free, especially while falling asleep during his commencement ceremony.
“I was just speechless,” Tyler said.
His parents Soya and George were also left in shock.
“When I realized what he said, I couldn't believe it and I teared up. I was so grateful to him but also to God,” Sonya says.
"To make this a reality for so many people, it is truly a blessing,” George said.
A gift of a lifetime is what the Baker family calls it, especially after putting not one, but two kids through college. They say their son Tyler never had the option of not going but they’re thankful for his education and a gift they could never return.
"Just knowing that I don't have to use the money that I’ve earned to pay off other people is good. Because now I know that I can use that well for me, for my family and other people,” Tyler said.
Baker graduated Sunday with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. What he did not expect was to be taught by world-renowned musicians, enhancing his skills as a violinist.
"Seeing that from the outside or from now that Morehouse is done, I wouldn't have had those teachers had I not gone. And I had no idea that they were there coming in,” Tyler said.
Charlotte Lippert with Valeo Financial Advisors says these students are already getting a jump start in life.
"Having that student loan debt is pretty much like putting a concrete block on them so you're already behind. So, everything else gets incrementally harder,” Lippert says.
Lippert says more millennials are going to college, but most are often digging themselves out of debt which prevents them from creating milestones. She says regardless if you graduate debt free or not everyone can make an impact on their debt.
"If you are willing to put in the hard work that other people aren't. That as you progress in your career can make up for a lot of ground,” Lippert says.
Sonya and George Baker are thankful for the young man Tyler has become and the money that no longer flows from their pockets.
"If it's half if it's twenty dollars it doesn’t matter. It's somebody that's willing to step out and do such a generous thing for so many families,” George says.
In the fall, Tyler will begin graduate studies at Relay Graduate School. He will also be teaching fourth and fifth-grade students at Tinley Summit.